If that Christmas was one of sorrow at Godolphin Court, it was nothing less at Penarrow.
Sir Oliver was moody and silent in those days, given to sit for long hours staring into the
heart of the fire and repeating to himself again and again every word of his interview with
Rosamund, now in a mood of bitter resentment against her for having so readily believed
his guilt, now in a gentler sorrowing humour which made full allowance for the strength
of the appearances against him.
His half-brother moved softly about the house now in a sort of self-effacement, never
daring to intrude upon Sir Oliver's abstractions. He was well acquainted with their cause.
He knew what had happened at Godolphin Court, knew that Rosamund had dismissed Sir
Oliver for all time, and his heart smote him to think that he should leave his brother to
bear this burden that rightly belonged to his own shoulders.
The thing preyed so much upon his mind that in an expansive moment one evening he
gave it tongue.
"Noll," he said, standing beside his brother's chair in the firelit gloom, and resting a hand
upon his brother's shoulder, "were it not best to tell the truth?"
Sir Oliver looked up quickly, frowning. "Art mad? quoth he. "The truth would hang thee,
"It might not. And in any case you are suffering something worse than hanging. Oh, I
have watched you every hour this past week, and I know the pain that abides in you. It is
not just." And he insisted--"We had best tell the truth."
Sir Oliver smiled wistfully. He put out a hand and took his brother's.
"'Tis noble in you to propose it, Lal."
"Not half so noble as it is in you to bear all the suffering for a deed that was my own."
"Bah!" Sir Oliver shrugged impatiently; his glance fell away from Lionel's face and
returned to the consideration of the fire. "After all, I can throw off the burden when I will.
Such knowledge as that will enhearten a man through any trial."
He had spoken in a harsh, cynical tone, and Lionel had turned cold at his words. He stood
a long while in silence there, turning them over in his mind and considering the riddle
which they presented him. He thought of asking his brother bluntly for the key to it, for
the precise meaning of his disconcerting statement, but courage failed him. He feared lest
Sir 0liver should confirm his own dread interpretation of it.